The Mating Game
by Melanie George, contemporary (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7120-5


This book is a complete mess. The author kicks off the show with a screwball comedy straight from a distant planet where the inhabitants have mush for brains, and attempts to switch gear into a more poignant (read: out of the blue) Big Revelation involving sexual abuse. The result? A truly horrifying ten-car pile-up of a book.

It's a pity, because if The Mating Game remains stupid - and oh boy, is that adjective an understatement or what - it would've been a wonderful what-the-hell kind of book, you know, the kind of books where the fun comes from openly mocking the main characters.

Oh, and the heroine's a romance author. I sincerely, truly hope the virginal, neurotic screwed-up Mallory Ginelli isn't based on anyone the author knows. If it is, boy, I wanna join the RWA now and enjoy the freakshow. Anyway, as I'm saying, Mallory Ginelli aka Zoe Wilde is a virginal romance author who channels her fantasies into her writing. A sample of her erotic love scenes? Here's one, which Ms George kindly provides:

He slipped a finger between her wet folds and staked claim to the swollen nub, stroking, teasing, flicking until bright slashes of color burst behind her eyes.

Sounds like R2D2 is getting a lancing of a boil on an embarrassing place by C3P0. And we wonder why people make fun of romance novels. Sheesh.

Mallory's sister is in trouble. The dumb girl racks up a really, really huge debt with the local loan shark. Apparently this isn't Dumb Girlie's first brush with stupidity, I'm told, because Mallory has Suffered Through The Martyrdom of Single Sistering so many times before. Mallory, here's a tip: if you don't even try to scold your sister, why should she behave?

But, Mallory has a solution. No, not sending sister to a boarding school run by ex-prison warden nuns, but to accept an invitation to England. Go figure - she gets chased by Brutus Loan Shark, and she goes to England. Only in romance novels.

Why England? Apparently, sexuality academic - I don't like to abuse the word "scientist" - I leave that to authors like guess-who - Dexter Harrington is so impressed with Mallory's sexual descriptions that he wants her to help him conduct some tests and to help him court a disposable Other Woman. I perk up at this point, as images of wild orgies and group sex flash before my eyes. How's that for "bright slashes of color", Mallory?

But no. Remember, this is a romance novel. Mallory is a virginal dingbat who will NEVER give out - until she does - and then it's whine-whine-whine time. You'd think a stupid piece of epidermis will be something one would be glad to be rid of, but not Mallory. It's the end of the world for her. Could be though, because apparently the last two brain cell she had was in that now torn hymen.

So they go. A non-stop cycle of futility, with Dexter alternating between being a complete jerk and a sensitive Kevin Sorbo-lookalike according to plot convenience (read: charming before sex, jerk after sex). Incidentally, Dexter is the reason why cool British authors rip apart pretentious ugly Americans in their books. He is a stereotypical feudal lord kind of figure, Melanie George conveniently forgetting that two-thirds of England thinks the monarchy is a waste of space.

I don't want to go about Dexter's research. Of Rats and Men: The Comparison Approach to Male Sexuality is one of his famous papers.

Okay, this is a sign that I am not to take this book seriously, and I don't, at least for the first 40 pages. Heck, how can I take seriously a book where the sex mad scientist has an assistant named Cummings? This is low-brow, hit-you-in-the-face humor at its most blatant, because Melanie George doesn't trust her readers to get her jokes. Every joke has to be told twice or three times, because see, I may just miss it. Ha, ha. Cummings. Ho, ho. Cummings. Isn't that funny? Cummings. Hee, hee. Cummings. Stop it, I'm dying. Cummings. Please stop. Cummings. Stop. Cummings. Cummings. Cummings. Cummingcummingcummings.

Cummings has a thing going with Mallory's stereotypical More Outgoing Best Friend, Freddie. Freddie Cummings. Oh my. Freddie shrieks and acts like a complete brat, and Cummings is Cummings. Oh my, I'm so tickled pink. Hilarious. Do it again and I swear I will start taking hostages.

Then Ms George wants to be serious. By serious, I mean she making the characters whine, shriek, and then have pity sex, only to repeat until I jump off the fifteenth story ledge. So fun, I tell you, I swear I almost imagine I am Cummings myself. Cummings is never this horrifying, and that's probably a first.

I am so relieved that the author is writing a romantic suspense for her next book. Oh, I know, everybody thinks she can write romantic suspense, even the Dee Davises and Dinah McCalls who can't plot a decent romantic suspense even if they are given a road map, but if that will stop Melanie George from repeating this excruciating ordeal, I say she'd bloody Cummings well go for it. The world will be a better place for it.

That is, maybe. Let's see how that one turns out. Probably Cummings. Oh, I'm killing myself. Anyone wants to sign me on to write a romantic comedy romance novel?

Rating: 12


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